Don’t Fear the Hand-Cut Dovetail (Part 1)
For the first time, a modern master reveals every step of his system
Synopsis: If you’re looking for expert advice on dovetails, you can’t go wrong by turning to Christian Becksvoort. This Shaker furniture master has been cutting dovetails by hand for more than 40 years, and if there is a method out there, he has probably tried it. Here, in the first of two articles, he spills his secrets—starting with the tails. Learn how he lays them out, figures out the best spacing, marks them, saws exactly to the line and chops them accurately. When you’re done, you’ll have a set of perfect tail boards.
I ’ve been working wood for more than four decades now, and I’ve always considered hand-cut dovetails the bedrock of my furniture. Nothing else so clearly indicates strength, quality, and craftsmanship. Starting out, I tried making dovetails in a variety of ways—cutting the pins first, or the tails first; chopping out the waste…